Helen Keller, who later became a writer and activist, was born in Alabama on June 27, 1980. When she was nineteen months old she became ill and as a result, was left deaf and blind. From that time until she was seven she communicated principally with her family using a combination of sixty different signs. Her mother, concerned about the education of her child, followed up on a report she had read regarding how another deaf and blind child had been educated. Traveling all the way from Alabama to Baltimore she sought advice from a specialist and then spoke with Alexander Graham Bell. Bell, who was working with children who were deaf, put Mr. and Mrs. Keller in touch with a special school for the blind. It was through this school that they came in touch with Anne Sullivan who would become Helen’s private teacher. Sullivan had some visual impairments herself and had actually been a former student of the Perkins Institute for the Blind before becoming a teacher.
Sullivan’s first task as Helen’s teacher was to attempt to discipline the young girl who had become quite spoiled during her young life. The teacher and her young student set up housekeeping in a small garden house on the property of Helen’s parents. From that point on Sullivan worked diligently to teach the names of familiar objects to Helen through symbols drawn on the girl’s palm.
Three years later Sullivan began working with Helen to teach her to speak, using a method known as Tadoma. This method involved touching the lips and the throat of another person while they spoke along with spelling words by writing the letters on the palm. This method would eventually allow Helen to learn not only English but other languages as well including German, Greek, French, and Latin; all in Braille.
By 1888 Helen was ready to actually attend the Perkins School for the Blind and six years after that she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. She later also attended The Cambridge School for Young Ladies as well as Radcliffe College. She would become the first deaf and blind student to graduate from college and all with the rank of magna cum laude.
In later years Helen became a speaker and author as well as an activist dedicated to such causes as suffrage and birth control. She also founded Helen Keller International, an organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness. In her speaking efforts, Helen Keller would travel to more than 39 countries and meet numerous U.S. Presidents as well as world famous individuals. After dedicating most of her life for the prevention of blindness and well as other causes she held dear Helen Keller died just before her 88th birthday on June 1, 1968.